London is just about the best hub in Europe to go almost anywhere to Europe and beyond, relatively cheaply. It is also a great base from wherever you're coming from in the world to make as your first port of call. A few days in London, and then a cheap flight out of Britain's capital can take you almost anywhere you want to go. Easyjet alone, one of the UK's best and friendliest low cost travel providers, currently flies to about 98 destinations. From Spring 2013, they'll also be operating the London to Moscow route, allowing you to jump from Dublin to London with the largest low cost flyer, Ryanair, (or any number of other airlines, like Aer Lingus or British Airways) then on from London to Moscow by Easyjet.
Prices on all routes vary enormously depending on when you're flying, how far ahead you book and how popular the route is, but the general rule with low cost flyers is to take only hand luggage – restrictions always apply, so check the website – and fly midweek when you can.
Dublin, Samuel Beckett Bridge — Photo courtesy of informatique
If you're tired of the cold winter temperatures, then Southern Europe might be just the ticket for you. Bari in Puglia in Southern Italy is a great place to visit, and, if you like following celebrity culture, then it's where Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel recently flew in to to get hitched. In Puglia, apart from the great local wines and food – Primitivo from Manduria is a great spicy red that packs a punch – there are the Trulli; these are the dry stone white huts with conical roofs which have become so beloved of bijoux hotels in the area and are definitely worth a visit. Reports suggest that the actress Helen Mirren has property in the area and a host of other stars – Brits and Americans alike – favor this part of Italy for their holidays or second homes.
Bari's Harbour in Southern Italy — Photo courtesy of Roller Coaster Philosophy
Once in Italy, you can short hop on to all sorts of destinations. Trains across country speed you up to Rome, across to Calabria and then on the boat through the straits of Messina to Sicily. From there, Palermo, Catania or Messina, you can fly out to all sorts of European destinations and beyond. From Palermo, the beautiful baroque capital of Sicily and home to some great eating, you can fly to London, Paris, Milan, Rome and Lyon, all with Easyjet.
Le Tour Eiffel, Paris — Photo courtesy of wlappe
Speaking of France, a short hop European destination would not be complete without Paris. There's something for everyone in the French capital; it's not for nothing that the film director Woody Allen's recent work was set there. The capital is short hand for romance in many people's minds, and the lights, the shops, the food and the beautiful boulevards and Gothic beauty of the cemeteries will pull anyone in. From there the world is literally your oyster. Train or plane journeys through France are one option, or fly on to Spain and to the Andalucian town of Seville, famous for its oranges, Moorish architecture and bullfights. Seville is also a great place to go if you feel like doing a Tapas crawl, the foodie's version of a bar crawl.
Wawel Castle, seat of the Polish Kings, Krakow — Photo courtesy of Logofag
In the east of the continent there are a wealth of great cities and countryside to explore. Now that the Iron curtain has long dropped, city after city is finding itself the new destination du jour as western Europeans discover cool cafes at cheaper prices than in their own cities. Think Dubrovnik in Croatia or Ljubljana in Slovenia, both of which are served from London by Easyjet, as is Krakow in Poland, home to castle Wawel, seat of the Polish Kings, and a super cheap destination full of good food, wine, beer and lots of fun.
Gothic street lamps in Prague — Photo courtesy of fklv (Obsolete hipster)
Prague, the Czech capital, has long been favored by Western Europeans as a poetic hang up, and despite higher prices than the rest of the East and a bigger influx of tourists, still holds a certain charm. Stroll hand in hand over the Charles Bridge, warm up with apple strudel and hot chocolate in one of the cafes and look into the Jewish cemetery or the National museum, complete with originals from Klimt, Mucha and many other great artists from the early twentieth century.
In short, there are just too many destinations to mention here, but all of them are brilliant and all of them worth discovering, so log on to one of the cheap flight providers, and start planning and dreaming. Happy travels.